Suffolk-Gatesville Populaire (67 miles)

Suffolk-Gatesville_PopSunday’s weather was too good to pass up for a January ride.  I wore tights, a Smartwool base layer, a jersey, a windbreaker with removable sleeves, a lightweight balaclava, and medium-weight gloves.  Seven riders showed up, including three recumbents:  Keith, Kim, Cory, Ron, Jacob, RecumBrent, and me.  We met at a Hardee’s in downtown Suffolk, signed the paperwork and got on the road fairly smoothly.  The first mile or two was a bit convoluted and took us through some crowded neighborhoods and even through a tiny grassy area where the streets don’t connect.  The road and scenery opened up quickly and then we were going at a steady pace. 

I left my handlebar bag behind with the hopes of having a faster ride (three-pound reduction plus aerodynamics).  I packed my pockets with lighter gloves, a reflective vest in case of night riding, a skull cap, wallet, keys, snacks… the stuff that’s usually in my bag!  That didn’t work out so well.  LOL!  We had a headwind from the south.  The wind was quite stiff at times.  Headwinds and even small hills put me in my place right away.  So I was riding alone within five miles.  I temporarily misplaced my compact camera.  As a result, I didn’t shoot any photos during the ride, not even with my smartphone since I was experimenting with an app.  I figured out how to load GPX files through “MyTracks” so I can see the course while riding.  That came in handy when I encountered a mislabeled turn at the 8.5-mile mark.  I was on my way after a minute of fidgeting with my phone plus a wardrobe adjustment.  I removed the windbreaker sleeves and switched to lighter gloves.  I continued at a comfortable pace.  Another reason I opted against taking photos is I still had hopes of catching the group, even with headwinds.  I was banking on their usual “tree visit” and planned to ride almost non-stop to Gatesville where I’d minimize my lunch stop.  I planned to just “ride my ride” if I didn’t see them again.

I did have to make one stop.  I forgot to fill my spare water bottle at Hardee’s.  My Camelbak was nearly empty by the time I arrived in Sunbury, NC (25 miles).  Not wanting to risk running dry, I made a minimal stop for water and a brownie and then hit the road as soon as I refilled.  Shortly after leaving, I was charged by a dog that came at me more aggressively than most.  There was an oncoming car.  So I pointed in the direction of the dog.  The driver probably thought I was nuts until he saw it.  The dog did not chase me and ran for safety instead.  😀  I encountered another nutty dog about five miles later… and another oncoming car.  I get “escorted” by plenty of barking, chasing dogs on my rides.  They usually back off when I calmly say, “You be a good dog.”  But not these two!  Mental note: The dogs around Sunbury are impaired!  😉  I rolled into Gatesville and quickly found the control stop.  The three recumbent riders (Jacob, Ron and Brent) were still there.  Success!

They were preparing to leave and reported that Keith, Kim and Cory left as they arrived.  I went into the store and bought more water, Gatorade and a slice of pizza.  Jacob and Ron left as I exited the store.  Brent asked, “Are you eating on the road?”  I thought for about a second and said, “Yes, I am!”  He agreed to wait for me.  I quickly removed my vest, switched to my skull cap, topped off my fluids, unboxed my pizza and then set out with Brent.  The wind was at our backs, generally speaking.  I sat on his wheel while I ate my pizza.  We talked some, too.  It wasn’t too long before we were able to see the recumbents’ flashers.  We were cruising at about 18-19 mph with medium effort.  Brent said, “Get on my wheel.  We’re going to catch them.”  He picked up the pace to about 22 mph.  I was still on the small chainring since I was holding my pizza in my left hand.  LOL!  Then he sped up to about 24.  I had no choice but to get on the big chainring.  I wasn’t giving up the pizza!  So I held the folded slice in my teeth.  Instead of a quick shift, I threw the chain!  I was able to get the chain back on track, then to the big chainring, and then I stood on the pedals to catch up and get back behind Brent.  We caught them after about 10 minutes of good speed.

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful.  We had a pretty good burst of speed for a stretch, cruising at about 24 mph briefly and 19-21 the rest.  Then I caught a small climb and it was over!  I was back to 13-14 mph.  😦  The recumbents slowed down as well, either for me or because they felt it, too.  We regrouped and stayed together until the last six miles.  Jacob was looking to test his new wheels.  He was out ahead of us.  I was “up and down” with my speed, sometimes catching up and sometimes falling back.  We all held good speed during the last two miles as we entered Suffolk.  I was riding fast enough to almost catch Ron and Brent while simultaneously giving traffic reason to think before trying to pass me.  It was good to stretch my legs and feel some speed, even if it was brief and with the wind to my back.  🙂  I was less than a minute behind the others.  Best of all, we finished the ride well before sunset!  We had dinner, finished up the paperwork and headed home.  I was good to be home by 5pm.  🙂  Hmmm… perhaps I should chase a P12 award?

Night Vision Not Required,


About Scott

I grew up near Houston, TX and served in the U. S. Coast Guard ordnance and electronics communities for over 35 years. I became involved with ham radio and computers in 1995. The explosion of technology made my jobs and hobbies quite interesting. My hobbies include Volkswagens, bicycling, photography/videography, electronics, ham radio, and web management.
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